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With coursework deadlines and even exams becoming more and more of a grim spectre lingering Dementor-like over every attempt to have fun, this week in Albi was a more muted affair. I did, however, finally summon the courage to get my hair cut – something I have been avoiding since I arrived seeing as I know no haircut related vocabulary and even British barbers often feel the need to mutilate my hair beyond all dignity. So when I set off, feeling as though the barber I was going to visit was Sweeney Todd (except worse because at least in the film he’s a good barber before he starts chopping people up for pies), my hair occupying the happy middle ground between stray cat fur and Dylan Moran’s pubes, I was not expecting miracles.

I ended up asking for “this length all over” and miming chopping off a wad of my hair and, thanks to some kind of divine intervention, he got my meaning. The end result could have been worse – although it did receive mixed reviews from my flatmates and neighbours which ranged from “it’s nice” to silence and a lot of eye shifting, to some kind of hysterical laughter induced stroke.

With another triumph of cultural integration in the bag I felt I had earned the right to tramp-like laziness until the weekend. There was a brief period of excitement as the mythical Erasmus grant finally arrived in the bank accounts of Edinburgh uni students all over Europe – although ours were nothing compared to the Irish government’s.

The increased work load has brought to light one fact that it is useful for anyone considering studying in France ; essays here are not the same as in Britain. Whereas back home we can pretty much do what we like as long as it is comprehensible and printed on nice, shiny, white paper, here there are hugely specific rules for writing essays and commentaries with which I shall not bore you (because I don’t understand them). To be honest, for me learning another writing discipline is in no way a bad thing but it has caused some anxiety among some of my fellow Erasmus students. One thing which is causing particular consternation is what is called a ‘problematique’. Effectively this is the title of a commentary or essay that the students have to choose themselves. Although the teachers have encouraged us not to get worried about it, it has been difficult at times to grasp this vague concept and I have had to fight the urge to write “AAAAAAAH! WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE?” as the problematique of a couple of papers.

With the immensely taxing twelve hour academic week put to bed, I was awoken on Saturday morning, slightly ‘mal aux cheveux’, by a snowball hitting my window.  Long gone are the dreams of sunbathing the weekend before Christmas, but the wild excitement with which the snow was received (two of my friends were out in their pyjamas dancing around like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of ‘A Christmas Carol’) made it more enjoyable for us withered veterans of Edinburgh winters to have a bit of a snowball fight in the morning. We then went to Toulouse to watch the new ‘Harry Potter’ film (bad acting, bad script, epic story – still nothing on the book) in English, where it struck me that, for all the supposed independent, anti-American sentiment in the country, people love a McDonalds and a cinema trip on a Saturday afternoon. Even though the McDo was 3 stories high I pretty much had to punch an old lady in the face to get a seat. In the cinema we were joined by what seemed like every English-speaking person in Toulouse which I enjoyed; as strange as it seems there was a nice kind of familiarity about being able to understand the murmured threats to sexually assault Emma Watson.

Having spent a thoroughly British afternoon, we went for a thoroughly Albi night out which started off in a pub at which we are becoming regulars. I say pub, there is a distinct possibility that a local resident just lived the dream and stuck a bar in his house, and now allows strangers to drink there. The Saturday evening entertainment was a DJ with a set of decks that took up roughly sixty percent of the floorspace of the cupboard under the stairs-sized pub. Not content with this brave stab at nightlife we then suffered the ultimate humiliation of being rejected from the worse of the two clubs in Albi. This required some sorrow-drowning which took place in a flat belonging to one of the uni’s resident professional hippies – a great guy if a bit of a nutter who looks like he should be the chef aboard a Viking longboat. Somehow, sitting in a circle arguing about whether it was acceptable to mix wine, cassis and coke in one cocktail lasted until four in the morning by which time I was ready induce myself into a wee coma until this morning.

Eh bien, continuons.

Gregor.

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